Entrance to a competitive school takes preparation of a rigour which you and your child need to be ready for.
During your 11 plus journey, your child will be under a lot of pressure. By extension, so will the rest of your family. It is important to recognise the strains it will put on your child so you can try to minimise any negative impact this may have, particularly as the typical school entrance journey is carried out over twelve months. Before even embarking on a senior school journey, there are many things to consider before you decide it is the right path for your child.
At Mentor, we have a track record of helping children to raise their game, get into leading independent schools and achieve outstanding exam results. But when we talk to parents, they don’t simply want their child to improve their grades or pass specific exams. Overwhelmingly, the message we hear from parents is that they want their children to be happy, confident learners with the self-belief to explore their talents fully and express themselves.
We believe that success isn’t a destination; it’s woven into every step of your child’s journey. It’s when they face failure and have the determination to try again. When they think on their feet and learn from past experiences. Or, when they draw on the strengths and creativity of the people around them. And when they know when to listen, when to talk and how to get their message across. Their emotional and mental wellbeing plays a crucial role in their ability to learn, adapt and develop this way.
Your child’s mental wellbeing depends on a wide variety of factors, many of which are out of your control. However, parents do have a significant role to play in modelling behaviour that enhances their child’s ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life. You can carry out activities together that help your child to take a step back and take a measured view of problems. Encourage them to use different strategies to develop a calm and balanced approach to life.
Here are some ideas for parents that we think are particularly helpful.
Mindfulness has increasingly come to the fore in recent years, and it can have powerful effects. Regular mindfulness practice helps children develop coping mechanisms, such as the ability to self-regulate. If they’re experiencing negative emotions and starting to lose control, it helps them to be able to stop, think and reset. Studies also show that mindfulness can improve focus and socialisation skills and reduce stress and anxiety.
There are lots of different mindfulness techniques to try, from reciting mantras, to counting breaths, to meditating. The aim is to help your child feel calm, present and fully connected to their body. If you’re out together, you could ask your child to focus on their senses and describe what they can see, smell, touch, hear or smell. You could take a walk in nature or try mindful eating, where you eat lunch or even a piece of fruit slowly.
When we experience something unexpected or shocking, our body goes into fight or flight mode. Our heart rate increases, our digestion stops, and our breathing becomes rapid and shallow. Children can find this physical state frightening, which then exacerbates their negative emotional state. Therefore, adults need to show children how to reset to a calmer state by taking deep breaths.
Deep breathing not only helps to get more oxygen into the bloodstream – an instant positive health benefit – but also calms the body in a real, grounded way, instantly relieving stress and tension. Help your child to practise deep breathing by blowing bubbles slowly or ask them to lie on their back with a stuffed animal on their stomach and take deep breaths in and out to make the toy move slowly up and down.
Help your child to focus on the positive things in their life by creating a happiness jar.
First, find an empty jar. Encourage your child to think about a few happy moments from the week, talk about them together and ask your child to write briefly about each moment on a piece of paper. Put the pieces of paper in the jar. Try to get your child into the habit of writing positive things down as they happen or at the end of each day.
In addition, collect nice things that people have written or said about your child: feedback from a teacher or tutor, a social media comment, an email or even a text.
Just the act of remembering these positive moments can be beneficial for your child’s self-esteem. They will have a greater understanding of how much they have to be grateful for, as well as remembering how much other people value them. Best of all, the jar is always there. If your child is ever feeling down, you can look through some of the comments to boost your child’s mood.
The popularity of social media and ease of access to the internet means that children are constantly bombarded with information. While there are upsides to being connected with friends, it’s important to encourage your child to take breaks from devices. Too much time spent staring at a screen can be bad for their emotional health and overall sense of wellbeing.
Research shows that an increase in the amount of time on devices has been connected to speech delays in children. For teenagers, pressure to be always available on their devices has been linked to poor sleep quality and mental health issues. Whilst it’s hard to measure the effects of a rise in screen time, this is likely to have contributed to the rise in mental health problems in children.
The best way to help your children relax and switch off is to lead by example. Put your own device away and insist on ‘digital blackouts’ for the whole family at various times – when you’re having your evening meal, for example. The ‘one screen rule’ can be successful. When you’re watching television or a film, no handheld devices are allowed.
If you’d like to know more about how we can help your child to fulfil their potential, please get in touch.